The chairman of real estate developer Sobha Group, PNC Menon, has said that the 25 billion UAE dirham ($6.8 billion) Firdaus Sobha planned for an island in the emirate of Umm Al Quwain will be launched ahead of this year's Cityscape Global exhibition in October, with infrastructure work likely to start "between June and July".
The project, which is a 50/50 joint venture with the Umm Al Quwain government, will develop the Al Sinniyah Island alongside Khor al-Beidah, which will be connected to the mainland 1.2 kilometres away via a new bridge.
The mixed-use development will cover 53 million square feet (5 square kilometres) and will contain an 18-hole golf course, five resort hotels, two villa communities, low- rise apartment blocks, a community mall and a marina.
Up to 700 villas and a smaller number of apartments will be built around the coastline and a canal that will run through the spine of the island.
Speaking to Zawya at the company's Business Bay office in Dubai on Wednesday, Menon said that "we expect to launch the project before Cityscape".
"The design is over," he said. "We are doing the engineering. There are various studies with this being an island - maritime study, ecological study etc. That is taking a little bit of time, but we are more or less coming to the end of those."
The Firdaus Sobha project was first announced by the joint venture partners two years ago.
Sobha Group was founded by Menon as an interiors company in Oman 42 years ago. The group now has a publicly-quoted development arm in India, contracting and manufacturing businesses and a Middle East development company that is currently working on the 25 billion dirham Mohammed Bin Rashid City project in a joint venture with Meydan Group and the 14.6 billion Sobha Hartland project - both of which are in Dubai.
A self-built scheme
As with other projects, the company plans to carry out most of the contracting work itself, but will rely on specialist subcontractors for some of the marine works and the dredging works required to create the island's canal.
Two of the project's five hotels will be developed in the project's first phase, and should be ready to open in 2022, Menon said, within four years of groundbreaking taking place. The hotels are each likely to contain between 250-350 rooms.
"It's a very important thing for people to see the hotels," Menon said, adding that talks with potential operators are already underway.
"It is right on the sea, so it will become an extremely good tourist attraction."
Menon said that work would begin on the project using the firm's own equity, but said that talks over a debt package were taking place simultaneously.
"We have reasonable clarity on the financial model of the island," he said. He declined to discuss further financing details, but said off-plan sales would play a part and expressed confidence about attracting buyers.
"It's a unique situation," he said. "You're not buying a property in the middle of the desert. You are on the front of the sea. Plus, we are creating canals where you will be able to anchor your yacht behind your house."
(Reporting by Michael Fahy; Editing by Anoop Menon)
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